My Painfully Short Hands-On With Super Smash Bros. for Wii U at Nintendo’s Smash Fest

And my comparatively long tale about it.

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Last night, hundreds of Smash Bros. fans lined up outside of Best Buy to get a chance to play the Wii U version of Smash Bros. before its release this holiday season, and that was just at my local Best Buy. But we were patient, and we waited, and we finally got the chance to play the game. And you know what? It was worth it.

In fact, that was the first thing out of the mouth of the lucky fans who had already gotten inside to play and came back to tell the story to the rest of us who were painfully far from the door. I guess I should say dedicated instead of lucky, because those at the front of the line had arrived at noon for the event, which didn’t even open until 4PM. “It was worth it,” they’d all say as they passed, which gave us hope as we waited upwards of four hours to get inside and play. I was about three hundred people back in line and managed to get in just before the 9PM ending time after waiting for nearly five hours. But I didn’t care. Once I got close enough to my turn to see the screen, I was immediately blown away.

Make no mistake about it: this game looks beautiful. If you’re reading this, I think it’s a fair assumption that you’ve seen plenty of footage of the game already, but there’s nothing like seeing it in person. At 60fps and 1080p on a decent size TV screen, all of the action is incredibly smooth. If there were ever a game that would benefit from high definition visuals, that game would be Smash Bros.

Not only do the graphics just look good in general, but the extra fidelity over previous entries in the series do a lot to make sure all of the little details that Smash has always been so fastidious about really shine through. There are no more jagged edges or blurriness when the camera pulls out in a four player match, so the charm, character, and nostalgia of each fighter is always on full display.

That also would’ve been true if we’d had a high def Nintendo console in 2008, but better late than never. Also, better with Mega Man. I cannot stress enough how excited I am not only that he was included in the game, but that they kept him true to the 8-bit days that I remember. Sorry, younger gamers, but I appreciate this nostalgia nod more than you can know and do not care about your newer Mega Men and their plight.

I didn’t get to play the 3DS version for myself, but I got to look over someone’s shoulder, and it looked remarkably good, too. I hope you have a 3DS XL if you’re planning on playing Smash, though, because you lose out on the finer detail when the camera pulls out even on the XL screen, so I can only imagine it might be a bit of let-down on an even smaller screen.

But how does the game play? Great, from what I could tell. I only got two minutes with the game due to poor logistics of the Smash Fest that I might get into another time, but it was enough to assure me that I’d be buying the 3DS version. If you’re even thinking about buying a Wii U, this game should absolutely tip you over the edge.

The improved visuals also help on the character select screen, though I’m not a big fan of the tan background they seem to be using. It matches too closely with many of the characters’ skin color and hair color, which makes it hard to pick out characters in your peripheral vision. Mega Man’s blue stands out nicely, though, and that’s who I went with.

The 2-minute time match should’ve felt short after how long I waited, but I was so engrossed that it felt longer than it really was. I didn’t get much of a chance to hang out by myself and figure out how to use my unfamiliar character, but the familiar game mechanics made up for it. From what I played, the physics and gameplay felt more natural than the floaty Brawl, which was comforting after watching the final round of the Smash Invitational.

It was hard to tell in the early free-for-all matches of Nintendo’s tournament, but when the game came down to two players, it looked like there was very little to the game outside of looking to get a single shot in on your opponent and then start from scratch. However, as skilled as those players were, it was a new game to them, so it’s probably still too early to judge.

This game is definitely a sequel to the Wii’s Smash Bros. Brawl, though, so any competitive Smash players who were hoping it would feel more like Smash Melee are out of luck. (There are some technical impressions from the tournament players here.) Still, there’s no random tripping anymore, and the physics and speed tighten up the gameplay, so it’s a step up over the previous entry in the series. I’m not a huge fan of Brawl, but the new game is definitely a must-buy for me on 3DS, so mark that one down as a win for Nintendo.

They didn’t have GameCube controllers available, but the Pro Controller would have been a suitable substitute if my thumbs had any idea where to look for the buttons. I still managed to pull out a victory with the Blue Bomber through a reluctant strategy of racking up points with items I knew were good for multiple KOs, and there was a Nintendo representative on-hand marking down which characters won each match on a note pad. I can’t be certain, but I’d say it’s a good bet those stats will get back to Mr. Sakurai.

And unfortunately for me, that was the end of my time with the game. I came away with a lot of lasting impressions about how the game looked and how it felt, but what it left me with most is this: I want more, and not just because I only got one round. Even if Best Buy had let me play for the entire five hours of the event, I’d want more. In fact, if I’d gotten that deep into the game, they’d probably have had to physically drag me from the building at nine.

Some people got to play more as the event began, but the rules were adjusted to get the line moving, which is the only reason I even got a chance at all. The approximately 200 people behind me (plus however far the line still went around the building’s corner that I couldn’t see) were sent home while I was inside and told to try again on Saturday.

If you’re planning on attending one of these events, get there early (they run from 12PM to 5PM local time) and try to go somewhere that’s not a generally crowded area. I happen to live in a densely populated area of the most densely populated state in the U.S. (New Jersey), and a friend in New York reported a similar experience, but another player I know told me he got three rounds in a more remote location, so set your expectations based on your location.

If you can get there early or find a store that’s not too crowded, you should absolutely head out and get your hands on the game, because you won’t get another chance until the holiday season for the Wii U version. Trust me: it’s worth it.

(image via Nintendo)

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.